Crunching the Numbers on Desktop Virtualization

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When Is It Right for a Business to Consider Desktop Virtualization?

Tips for determining whether desktop virtualization is right for your business.

Like the economy, desktop virtualization continues to walk a razor's edge between phenomenal success and abject failure.

As we saw a few weeks ago, cost and performance issues still weigh heavily on the minds of users. On the flip side, a raft of new approaches are looking to turn traditional VDI on its head with promises of lower startup and operating costs and greater flexibility.

Some of these approaches involve packing a little more punch into the client side, which makes for a more expensive seat but relieves pressure, and thus costs, on centralized infrastructure. Wanova, for example, puts client software onto existing computers, which then proceeds to back layers of data onto a server where it can be managed, updated and protected. This avoids having to offload actual computing onto the server CPU and allows upwards of 1,500 seats on a single server, compared to 20 or 30.

Cloud-based solutions are also turning the cost-benefit ratio of desktop virtualization on its head by extending economies of scale across multiple users. Desktop-as-a-service provider Desktone, for example, recently teamed up with service provider mindSHIFT Technologies to deliver a low-cost virtual desktop solution to small- and medium-sized businesses. The package will allow firms to fully outsource their desktop fleets to mindSHIFT's cloudShift Desktop Premium service, gaining full desktop, server, application and even voice services.

To some, desktop virtualization comes down to a numbers game. The more desktops involved, the better the return on investment. According to Gartner, it will take about 300 seats to seriously begin recouping the upfront costs of the typical deployment, which usually includes additional server, storage and networking hardware, as well as licensing and training costs. Note also that not all workers are ideal candidates for virtualization. Call center and other basic-task workers would probably benefit most, while higher-order employees generally require too much personalization and variety in their desktops to make it truly worthwhile.

And as IT Business Edge's Ken-Hardin pointed out recently, startup costs will vary greatly depending on the state of your infrastructure at the outset. It will probably take a bit of investigation to determine if your plant can handle the increase I/O demands and other aspects of hundreds of newly wired clients. Info-Tech Research Group is offering a free download of its Desktop Virtualization Appropriateness Assessment Tool, which will help calculate both infrastructure and organization readiness.

Despite the ongoing hype surrounding desktop virtualization, it remains a tough call for many enterprises. Promises of lower costs and rising benefits are generally based on lab results and showcase deployments, which means they may or may not materialize in your bricks-and-mortar enterprise.

But the fact is that deployments continue at a steady, if not stellar, pace, giving the industry a little more time to work out all the kinks.